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Baby Shower Etiquette: Returning Gifts

Now that all the gifts have been opened, what’s a mom-to-be to do if she gets duplicates or just doesn’t like an item?

Is It OK to Return Them?

“It’s always OK to return a gift as long as you’re polite about it,” says Emily Miles Terry, coauthor of Nesting: It’s a Chick Thing and columnist for Disney’s Family.com. If you return the item in a timely fashion, most stores are generally very accommodating and open to exchange, even without a receipt.

Oliver Mims, an etiquette and manners expert, agrees. “There is nothing wrong with returning a gift that you already have and most everyone will understand,” he says. “For gifts you don’t want, have no use for or just plain hate, getting away with returning them depends on how often you see that person and whether or not they will expect to see the gift in use. Sometimes in the name of not hurting someone else’s feelings or offending their bad taste, it is best to store the gift away in your closet and bring it out when they come around.”

Duplicate Gifts

Colleen A. Rickenbacher, a business etiquette expert and author of Be on Your Best Business Behavior, feels a gift should be returned only if duplicates are received. “It becomes extremely dangerous to return a gift of one of your guests,” she says. “When they come to visit you and the baby they expect to see their gift. It is hard to explain that because they didn’t use your registry to buy the gift, you don’t like it and you returned it. Keep it and make sure it is visible when they arrive.”

Changing Your Mind

Sandra Gordon, author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products, says it’s fine to return a gift if you already have the item, don’t like the gift, or feel, after the fact, that the money could be put to better use for something else, like diapers. “Lots of moms register for things that they ultimately decide they really don’t need or want,” she says. “There’s lots of seductive baby gear out there, but your perspective can change once your baby is born and you’re living the reality of it.”

But Gordon reminds the mom-to-be to thank the person enthusiastically and to be complimentary when opening the gift. She suggests saying, “Oh, thank you. You can never have too many hooded towels!” Or, if it’s a big thing like a highchair and you’ve been given one already, say, “Oh, it’s such a great color.” “The person who gave it to you will probably say where she got it, in case you want to take it back,” Gordon says. “Baby shower registries aren’t infallible. Just say thank you and something upbeat like, ‘You never know. Maybe I’ll need two,’ and go on to the next present.”

Keep It to Yourself

Everyone agrees that there’s no need to tell the gift giver you returned the present. “There’s no need to divulge that information,” Gordon says. “What you do with the gift is your business. Just thank the gift giver after the shower with a written note, not e-mail, and go on your merry way. If she asks about her present (as in ‘Whatever happened to that baby walker I gave you?’), then you could explain, if you feel you must, that you had to return it, or whatever. Otherwise, fudge it by saying something like, ‘Oh, thanks again for that. You were so generous. We received so many nice gifts,’ then change the subject.”

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